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Written by: Nick Payne
Directed by: Rachel Lenart
New Zealand premiere
One relationship. Infinite possibilities.
Marianne and Roland are polar opposites. A quantum physicist and a beekeeper. A big universe thinker and an everyday believer. Nick Payne’s 2012 Harold Pinter Award WinnerCONSTELLATIONS confronts our questions of choice, control and certainty, and the multiple possibilities within one relationship.
A play about free will and friendship, quantum multiverse theory, love and honey;CONSTELLATIONS is an unmissable, universe shifting show that will challenge how you see life, and change how you live it.
“This is existentialism for the 21st Century, and it is awesome.” Rachel Lenart
This two-hander contemporary, romantic drama, stars award-winning actors Erin Banks (The Great Gatsby) and Richard Dey (All My Sons). Directed by ‘one of Wellington’s most adventurous directors’, Rachael Lenart is backed by a collaborative team of award-winning creatives. This play is for the expert and the everyman, the scientist and the thinker, the astronomer and the dreamer. Whatever your beliefs are in life,CONSTELLATIONS is a must see in this existing universe.
Starring Erin Banks and Richard Dey
26 July − 23 August
Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm
Preview Friday, 25 July $25 tickets
Sunday matinee, 27 July $25 tickets
Wednesday, 30 July Molecular Mixology night, pre-show cocktails at Encore Bar, 6.30-7.30pm
Friends of Circa (until 10 August) $33
Groups 6+ $39 20+ $36
Under 25s $25
Variations on a Relationship
By John Smythe, Theatreview, 28 July 2014
The instant a writer of fiction in any form – or a composer, choreographer or artist of any kind – starts work on a new idea, they are playing the ‘what if …?’ game. Some people like to think our lives are determined by a higher power – God – so tend to see whatever happens as ‘meant to be’. Others are more inclined to ‘chaos theory’ but feel compelled to find meaning in whatever happens randomly.
Most of us muse from time to time on the complex network of choices, purposeful actions and unexpected events that impact our lives, and wonder ‘what if?’. Perhaps our genes seal certain elements of our fate but we get to choose what we make that mean and how we handle it. Or could it be that every action any of us takes is simply an inevitable consequence of all that has gone before, which means ‘choice’ is illusory?
These are the metaphysical conundrums British playwright Nick Payne – a graduate of York University, Central School of Speech and Drama, and the Royal Court Young Writer’s Programme – plays with in Constellations, which premiered at the Royal Court in 2012.
Initially it seems he’s tossing around different options for how a relationship might start when Marianne and Roland meet at a barbecue, and the actors – Erin Banks and Richard Dey, in this Rachael Lenart-directed production at Circa Theatre – are testing the options for him. But of course the variations are the point, although her opening gambit about licking elbows remains a constant.
It turns out Roland is a beekeeper who admires the bees’ absolute certainty of purpose, determined by their role in the hive hierarchy. Marianne is a quantum physicist and muses on quantum multiverse theory, where everything you’ve ever done exists in one universe while everything you’ve never done but could have done instead – i.e. every possible future – exists in parallel universes. But maintaining a sense free will, of control, over her life is important: “I have to have a choice!” she insists, in one of the many recurring sequences.
While Michael Frayn’s superbly craftedCopenhagen, which played in the same Circa Two space in 2002, is a profound and playful philosophical exploration of Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and the quantum mechanics of science, politics and other human behaviour, Nick Payne simply uses quantum mechanics, general relativity, string theory and beekeeping as a background conceptual context.
The variations on the story of Marianne and Roland’s relationship are played out in everyday – some might say prosaic – scenarios we can all relate to, and Banks and Dey do a brilliant job of switching from one possibility to another, infusing each with entirely or subtly different emotions, moods and states of being. The lightness of touch they bring to the transitions belies the rigorous process they and Lenart must have gone through in rehearsal. The truth they bring to each moment generates some delightful comedy.
Intercut with the relatively linear relationship story is a glimpse of something that presages what is to come – although “time is irrelevant at the level of atoms” – and here Payne is teasing us with ‘what is it?’ rather than ‘what if?’ In developing a script most playwrights also ask themselves ‘what would it take?’ to produce a result they wish to achieve and of course Payne has made a choice that clearly determines the story’s destination.
What is finally revealed is a radical ‘game-changer’, again a range of alternatives are played out and in the end the question of choice becomes what you might call ‘ultimate’ (obliqueness intended to avoid a spoiler).
Apart from the great pleasure of watching two actors ply their craft exquisitely, Constellationsengages its audience by compelling us to analyse and judge the variables, and ask ourselves what we would have done in the circumstances.
Lauren Stewart’s simple black box space is furnished only with two slatted pale pine seats. Honeycomb shapes dot the back walls and clear glass light bulbs hang in the space and over the small auditorium and glow in various combinations: the major feature of Marcus McShane’s lighting design. Tane Upjohn-Beatson’s sound design and ethereal original compositions – recorded with violin soloist Yury Gezentsvey and the Quadrivium string quartet – complete the splendidly integrated design elements, implemented by Technical Operator Deb McGuire.
It’s probably irrelevant for me to wonder what ifPayne had further explored the question of choice, control and responsibility by including some reference to the global threat to bee populations, and therefore to our very survival, brought about by insecticides. But that how it goes with a play like this: you can’t help thinking …
CONTAINS SOME STRONG LANGUAGE
LATECOMERS NOT ADMITTED
Running time 1 hour 10 minutes (no interval)
NZSL interpreted performance
Friday, 22 August at 7.30pm.
Circa is offering a discounted ticket price of $38 to members of the Deaf community aged 26 and up (Adult price is usually $46). For people 25 years old and under, tickets are $25.
To book for the NZSL interpreted performance, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please advise of your name, phone number and that you would like seats in the designated area in view of the interpreters. Tickets can be paid for on the night, but must be paid by 7pm.